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Wednesday, August 23, 2006


When premium parts aren't

Normally, the Echlin parts at NAPA are pretty good. But at least in the slant six community, their distributor caps have a reputation for having their contacts ground wrong. I've heard several stories about visibly bad distributor caps on SlantSix.org. Seems the tooling for that is off-center.

Well, yesterday I stopped by the local NAPA Auto Parts in Covington, and had a chance to see this myself. I decided I might as well pick up the parts for installing a seven pin HEI system and have everything I need once I get my Megasquirt running so I can convert it to computerized spark control soon. So I decided I might as well get a cap and rotor for the Lean Burn distributor that I will use for that along with the HEI module.

The clerk there brought out an Echlin distributor cap. I took a look inside the cap, and sure enough, the contacts were not all ground the same. One even had a layer of plastic that completely covered the lower surface of the contact. I pointed this out to the clerk. He went back and brought out one of their cheaper distributor caps (made by Standard Parts Co.) and a second Echlin cap. This second cap was even worse! One of the contacts showed no signs that the tooling had cut into the plastic at the lower surface at all, and a second contact looked like the bad contact in the first cap he'd shown me. The Standard cap looked much better, with very uniform contacts.

So if you ever need a slant six distributor cap, avoid NAPA's Echlin parts, at least until they fix that tooling. I'm not holding my breath - this issue seems to have gone on for years, from what I've heard. The good news is that the problem is often bad enough that you can just flip the cap upside down and point out what's wrong to the clerk. The Echlin caps are tan, while the Standard ones - the one that seems to be the best quality - are black.

Funny thing is, last time I had a bad parts rant, it was about Summit Racing Equipment, where I complained about the poor quality of their house brand AN fittings instead of one of the premium brands. A few days later, my logs showed somebody working at Summit had done a search to see what bloggers were saying about them and stopped to read my blog. So, in the unlikely chance that anyone who works for NAPA Echlin is reading my blog, I'd appreciate it if you could bring this up at your next kaizen meeting or quality control discussion. Please fix the tooling you use to make slant six distributor caps.


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